A Debt of Gratitude

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From the moment we are born, our lives are filled with teachers. Some will be better than others. Some will be in a classroom, but if you are paying attention, most won’t be. This is my homage to two that were.

Let me say, the whole Department of Education doesn’t have enough money in their coffers for me to be a teacher, especially today. I know of what I speak, for I have done my fair share of substitute teaching in various Arctic communities over the years.

The influence that a teacher can have on you is profound. Good or bad, indifference or concern, a teacher’s imprint on a young mind can be life altering.

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I was always a good student and respectful of my teachers.  Some were better than others but two really stand out for me.

Helen Welch was the last teacher I had in that little school. It was Mrs Welch that reinforced my love of reading.

I have loved to read for as long as I can remember. Books were rare in our house when I was young. I devoured my uncle’s ‘little big books’ and comics anytime I was at my grandmothers.  I remember cutting the stars from potato chip bags we had, or that  I found,  so I could submit them and get ‘free’ books.

It was Mrs Welch though, who first gave voice to those printed words. I don’t ever remember being read to as a child, that is, until I reached Mrs  Welch’s classroom.

Each afternoon, right after lunch and immediately following the bell for us to be in our seats, Mrs Welch would read a chapter from a book. I remember she did this every day for the three years I was in her room.  Perhaps it was her way of ensuring we were all back at school on time, I will never know, but I am eternally grateful for that few minutes everyday she spent transporting me to places I didn’t even know I missed.

I don’t think she ever read the classics, but rather I like to think she read us books that she loved. I remember the Anne books, Anne of Green Gables, and Anne of Avonlea. Treasure Island…oh how I loved that one!! Given that she had three grades and both boys and girls, I think Mrs Welch tried, very successfully, to find books that would appeal to all of us.  She most always stood when she read….wearing her flowered dresses with their knife pleats, the chain from her glasses draped down the sides of her face and around her neck.  I often think of her when I read a particularly great book and wonder if she would have enjoyed it.

Delta Hooper….what a temper that woman had!  If Mrs Welch was the reason I love to read, Mrs Hooper was the catalyst for me to write.

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Propelled by the search for perfection, Mrs. Hooper did not suffer fools …or foolishness in her class… lightly. How well I remember coat hangers zipping past my head as she flung them, one after another, at a boy in our English class. I wanted to fling a few coat hangers myself…I loved Mrs Hooper’s passion and had such a thirst to learn everything I could about grammar, writing, literature….it drove me mad when chaos erupted in class. It slowed things down and I was a like a sponge, wanting to absorb as much as I could in that 40 minutes.

There were other teachers I liked and admired, and a couple that made me wonder why they had chosen teaching as a profession, but for me it was these two women, Mrs. Welch and Mrs Hooper, that captivated a young mind and set the direction of my life in ways that they could never have imagined.

It is too late for me to thank either of them personally….the time for that sadly, long passed.

But publicly, here, in this moment,  I thank you both for the magic, the knowledge, the encouragement and the gentle, and sometimes forceful, urging me to reach higher, to do better. Most of all thank you both for believing that I could, even when I doubted it most.

My life was enriched and blessed by teachers, in classrooms and in life. I only wish they knew that.

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